Seeking Justice

Promoting Freedom, Justice, and Peace

In addition to being a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Egypt is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Egypt signed the International Covenant on August 4, 1967 and ratified it on January 14, 1982. This noble document is premised on the notion that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This lofty statement places into broader context the nature and ramifications of the denial of a group of Egyptian citizens access to identification cards entitling them to basic civil rights solely on the basis of their adherence to the Baha’i Faith.

In unambiguous terms, Article 2 of the Covenant states that each signatory must safeguard the rights of all human beings in its territory:

Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (emphasis added)

Among the rights recognized in the Covenant, is the following, contained in Article 18:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice. (emphasis added)

Given that Egypt is a signatory to the Covenant containing these protections and guarantees, it is difficult to conceive of a basis on which the Egyptian government could justify a denial of the request of the Baha’is of Egypt to be able to include a “dash” in the religion section of their identification cards, in order to obtain the cards and the basic civil rights to which their holders are entitled.

One hopes that the Egyptian government will soon rise to meet its responsibility to recognize the inherent dignity of all of the citizens of Egypt, regardless of creed, under this glorious Covenant, and thereby play its part in building the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

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  1. ME Faith - Middle East Interfaith Blogger Network » Blog Archive » Another Insightful Post in “Seeking Justice” pingbacked on 14 years, 2 months ago


  1. * r.a. says:

    The terms of the articles are clear and definitive, however, it is the interpretation, or rather, the unconventional interpretation of the objectives of the Covenant that are being manipulated by the Egyptian government. Repeatedly and with firm language, the courts as well as the Islamic clergy of the Azhar administration have stated that there are only three divine religions. These, according to their beliefs, are what form the definitions and parameters of religious belief and nothing else. As such, they see no violation to the Covenant, although it is clear that this speaks otherwise. The terms “belief”, “freedom of thought”, and “conscience”, are not what would be considered identifiers or entities in official documents such as the new ID card. Once again, one would ask why, and to what purpose is religion or any other persuasions of conscience compulsory for civil document applications. The weak and unsubstantiated arguments given by these same parties was that religious law defines terms regarding inheritance, marriage, divorce, and the like; all issues that have found resolution decades, and even centuries ago in societies around the world, including Egypt. By no margin of credibility are the arguments presented by the Egyptian authorities in conformity with the Covenant. Perhaps the terms of the Covenant itself – in light of the exploitation by extreme religious societies – require development to close loopholes and define further parameters such as deleting the requirement of religious affiliation in civil documents. There is a divide, a different language spoken in religious societies, and these need to be addressed in terms particular to their conditions and challenges.

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 2 months ago
  2. * truthseekers9 says:

    Dear R.A.

    Thank you for your very insightful comment. As you point out, the arguments presented by the Egyptian authorities do not conform with the plain text of the Covenant itself. One response to those who would argue that the rights contained in the Covenant should be limited to only three religions is that there are some fundamental universal principles that are valued by all societies and for all human beings, and the International Covenant is a reflection of this. These UN Covenants, as we understand them, are developed through joint dialogue and participation among the diverse nations of the world. You raise an interesting point about closing loopholes. It seems that through further exchange and dialogue this can no doubt be achieved. Thank you again for your very excellent points! We look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 2 months ago

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